The contemporaneous Dali (957-1253) and Liao (916-1125) kingdoms both promoted Buddhism. They made sculptures in the style that descended from the Tang Dynasty (618-907). As a result, Liao and Dali sculptures are closely related in style and general appearance. In fact, previously, the very rare Dali sculptures were often mistaken for the more commonly seen Liao sculptures (see for a Liao example, lot 49). Buddha images from the Dali kingdom show heads that are relatively large in proportion to their shoulders and a low cranial protuberance that are often embellished with a ratna at the front, as this sacred image demonstrates.
The half-closed eyes look directly outward - in contrast to the large heavily lidded eyes of Tang and Liao sculptures, pointing to this sculpture's origins in the Dali kingdom. The current Buddha’s monastic robe crosses both shoulders and descends to the abdomen. Its edge folds into an undulating curvy configuration, characteristic of Buddha images from the Dali Kingdom. A last feature of Dali Buddha examples is the armlet decoration on the right upper arm.
The Buddha is very similar in style to an example in the Shanghai Museum, which bears an inscription dating it to the mid 12th century. The resemblance to the Shanghai sculpture suggests a 12th to 13th century date for this magnificent Buddha.
A comparable fine example was sold at Christie's, New York, 20 March 2014, lot 1611.